The ComDads (1983)
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Christine, after her son Tristan has ran away from Paris, asks for the help of two old ex-boyfriends, neurotic ex-teacher Jacques and tough journalist Jean-Lucas, to find him, and she tells to both of them that he is their son, while her husband, the man that unwittingly caused Tristan's flight.
The chase begins, or better, the chases, because Jean-Lucas is preparing an article about a Casino owner's affiliations with the Mafia, and said Casino owner understandably doesn't want the article to be published...
This is the original version of 'Father's Day', and is arguably better, especially with French Comedy Genius Francis Veber at the helm and Pierre Richard vs Gérard Depardieu (one of the best living French actors) in full play, this movie is a real treat to watch.
Favourite scene; when Tristan is fighting against his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend and in the meanwhile Jacques and Jean-Lucas are having a fight of their own, and the crowd turns from the two boys fighting to the two men fighting! Les Compères: 7,5/10
"Les Compères" begins with a mother and father going to the police to get help in finding their runaway son. However, the police cannot guarantee quick action and the mother decides to use an evil scheme to elicit the help of two old lovers. She meets separately with Richard and Depardieu to tell them that the boy is actually their long-lost son that they didn't know even existed. This exceptionally cruel device works, however, and both set out to find their 'son'. However, they don't know that each is searching for a 17 year-old boy who can't be their son because he's only 15--and was fathered by the lady's husband.
Like "La Chèvre", Richard is a bumbler and makes a mess of most everything. Depardieu is tough and a man of action. Together, true to formula, they help each other to grow. They also manage to find the boy AND uncover a mob conspiracy. While the way the teen reacts to them and the mob plot offer a few surprises, the overall film offers none. As I said, it's formulaic all the way and ends pretty much like you'd expect. While none of this is bad, it's also a tad bland and inoffensive--the sort of film that is more of a time-passer than anything else. Fortunately, Francis Veber went on to do many wonderful and more satisfying films. And if "Les Compères" is among the least of his work, then that is a pretty good endorsement for seeing more of his films (such as THE VALET, MY BEST FRIEND and THE CLOSET).
By the way, this film's plot is very similar to the Gina Lollabrigida film BUONA SERA MRS. CAMPBELL--a film that is about as good and worth seeing as "Les Compères".
Basically LES COMPERES is about how young Tristan Martin (Stephane Bieron) has an argument with his parents about his girlfriend, and flees with her. The mother Christine (Anny Duparen) goes and finds two previous boy-friends, Jean Lucas (Gerald Depardieu) who is a journalist, and Francis Pignon (Pierre Richard), who is an overly emotional teacher. She tells each that Tristan is their son - not the biological son of her husband Paul (Michel Aumont). And both (seperately) go after the boy - and soon find each other as a friend but rival in the issue of the boy's actual father.
LES COMPERES kept the activities of the film's comedy between Depardieu and Richard, and the confused Tristan. This is fine (the script was good and tight here). However, it missed out on some wonderful comic moments that appear in FATHER'S DAY, involving the father of the boy Bob Andrews (Bruce Greenwood). He hears his wife (Nastassje Kinski) on the phone with Billy Crystal about the issue of their son's parentage, and decides to go and find the boy himself. In the process he has a series of disasters involving a porto-potty at a gas station, and a clumsy (if good natured) truck driver (Dennis Burkley), that are very funny. But nothing like that occurred in the French original.
One thing that does get overly developed in the American remake (but was more effective, as it was used less frequently, in the French original) was "beaning". In FATHER'S DAY, Crystal demonstrates fairly early his ability to bean opponents on the head to knock them out or disable them. He repeats it several times. But Depardieu does not use it as frequently, and when he turns up at the end to use it against a particularly obnoxious and threatening individual he comes out looking quite effective as we are not expecting it from him.
SPOILER COMING UP:
At the end of both films, the boy privately tells both of his would-be fathers that each is his biological father, but should not say so to the other one (so as not to upset him). But in FATHER'S DAY, Crystal (a lawyer, not a journalist like Depardieu) confesses to his long suffering wife Julia Louis-Dreyfus that he could tell the boy was lying - he could tell from frequent experience in court. Also, unlike Richard, Williams has a potential romance in his future. As Crystal and Dreyfus decide to go ahead with their plans for a family, the characters in the American version have some kind of hope in their futures. But in the French version, the two would-be daddies end up secretly reassured of their own biological parenting of the boy. The French version is more organically complete as it is, but I do like the hope that is in store for the American counterparts at the end of the American version.
Maybe it's because it was my first Veber-Richard-Depardieu film, maybe it's this beautiful theme from the master Vladimir Cosma, a little tune that invites us to hug life and trust our spirit. Maybe because it features two actors at the top of their game: Depardieu is tough but some subtle moments betray a sensitive heart, while Richard is as clumsy and dreamy as ever, but not without some moral strength. I guess it's because the movie is all these things and even more, it told me something I could relate to, as a son, as a guy who wants his future son to be an alter-ego who wouldn't commit the same mistakes. The film, behind its comical undertone, is an endearing fable of two men embracing fatherhood like an exciting thrill that enriches one man's life.
Pride and responsibility, love and authority Veber finds the perfect dialog and the perfect actions to illustrate the many facets of fatherhood. After "The Toy", and "The Goat" which proved to be commercial successes, Veber's writing and directing talent shows again in "The Compères" starting with the premise. The film opens with a young teen-ager hitch-hiking toward the South of France with his girlfriend. They're young, good-looking, we'd take it dramatically if the music wasn't playing, conveying a false sense of free-spiritedness. As much as I love the music, and as I find the opening scene relevant, the combination of both creates an awkward feel, except if it's used to express a sensation of melancholy and uneasiness through the kid's act.
The first scene reveals his identity, his name is Tristan, he's 16 and ran away from home. His mother (Anny Duperey) is very concerned and tries to collect information from police and from the girlfriend's father, without much result, the father, remarkably played by Michel Aumont (another regular from Veber films) is one of these decent guys who lacks the 'wild side' that can help sometimes, he's not a tough guy like Depardieu or a tortured soul like Richard, and seems to have the bad role of the 'average schmuck' in the beginning. The story begins when the mother has a strange idea; she meets Jean Lucas, Depardieu, one of her youth's love and tell him that Tristan is his son, so he would feel responsible enough to find him. Showing reluctance first, he finally accepts to help when given the opportunity of an investigation in Nice that would finally prove a politician's connection with the mob. He's already persona non grata in the town after an incendiary article against the local Mafioso.
Meanwhile, the mother had the same idea with Pierre Richard, François Pignon, a depressive guy at the verge of committing suicide. Having found at least a meaning to his life, Pignon naturally accepts to help. The film's first comedic moments are driven by the way Lucas and Richard try to find similarities between them and Tristan, when given the photo, they can't hide their disappointment because he obviously doesn't look like them, but when their paths cross in Nice, you can feel their pride when they talk about Tristan. The qui pro quo is both poignant and funny; it's sad because we know they're not the fathers, and yet we accept the eventuality and funny because each one reads in Tristan's personality: where Lucas sees strength and rebellion, Pignon sees a dreamer, an idealistic soul. The two men are both different in personalities, but this time, they have something in common, and that's why I prefer this Depardieu and Richard duo..
The cat-and-mouse between Tristan and his two fathers, spiced up by the involvement of the mob, lead to a series of comical situations from Pignon's outburst of laughs when he was told to cry, to Lucas teaching Pignon how to hit with a head. Finally, we discover Tristan, a kid who probably left his house, because he was tired of his father's lack of personality (like James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause") and ironically, he had such a hard time in the film that he needed not just one father, but two. When he cried over his break-up, Lucas told him to stop because he's a man, while Pignon let him go on, it doesn't matter who's right or wrong. A father doesn't necessarily give the right advice, but he gives the one he feels the righter.
And while the two protagonists discover that being a father is a full-time job, Tristan realizes that if two men want to be his dad, than the real one is to be valued. It was a beautiful touch to have this final discussion between Tristan and his father, instead of the mother. All is well that ends well, and the film ends in an extraordinary poignancy when Tristan told each of Lucas and Pignon that they are the real father, Depardieu's reaction was extraordinarily. Why did he do this since they'll end up knowing the truth? I guess it's because he understood their happiness over the idea of being fathers, and if he could let them share this happiness even for a brief time. It's worth the coming disappointment.
There's a bittersweet feeling in the ending but it's still the perfect note of optimism to conclude this beautiful story with the two smiling men and the kid holding them and asking them when Father's Day is, and then the beautiful music from Vladimir Cosma starts again. Indeed, "Les Compères" is one of these films to watch during Father's Day.